Gary Cohn, former Goldman Sachs exec and Trump economic advisor, is joining IBM as vice chairman

Gary Cohn, former Goldman Sachs exec and Trump economic advisor, is joining IBM as vice chairman
Former Director of the U.S. National Economic Council Gary Cohn in New York City.Jeenah Moon/Reuters
  • IBM named Gary Cohn as vice chairman and a member of the firm's executive leadership team on Tuesday morning.
  • Cohn was a key lieutenant to former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and seen as a possible successor before leaving for the Trump administration in 2016.
  • Cohn served as the director of the National Economic Council from 2017 to 2018.
  • Cohn stepped left his post at the White House in 2018 after failing to convince Trump to forgo tariffs on steel and aluminum.

IBM just named Gary Cohn, a one-time senior Goldman Sachs executive and a former economic advisor for President Donald Trump, as its vice chairman and a member of its executive leadership team.

The tech giant announced Cohn's appointment on Tuesday morning. IBM said Cohn will work alongside CEO Arvind Krishna on business development, public advocacy, client services, and other areas.

"I am honored to be joining IBM as Vice Chairman," Cohn said in a tweet. "IBM is one the world's most important companies, providing technology that helps organizations be agile and resilient in unpredictable times."
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Cohn was a key lieutenant to former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and seen as a possible successor before leaving for the Trump administration in 2016.

As Blankfein's No. 2, Cohn played a critical role in helping Wall Street's most storied investment bank navigate the challenges of the 2008 financial crisis.

Seen by many as uncouth, Cohn inspired fear and respect across Goldman's trading floors and often acted as Blankfein's strong man. He also helped ingratiate Goldman into the fast-growing corners of Silicon Valley, forging early relationships with startup founders.
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Cohn got his start on Wall Street as a commodities trader before joining Goldman in 1990.

He soon connected with Blankfein, and the two rose through the ranks almost in lockstep, with Blankfein tapping Cohn numerous times for jobs underneath him as he ascended the ranks of Goldman's powerful. Cohn's position made him a potential successor to Blankfein in the event the CEO stepped down, but as the years went on and it became apparent that Blankfein didn't have an intention of stepping down, Cohn began to look at other opportunities.
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Read more: Goldman Sachs just reached a $3.9 billion settlement with Malaysia over its role in the 1MDB scandal. An exec who built the trades is still there - and has only gained influence.

In 2016, he accepted Trump's offer to run the National Economic Council, a key economic appointment held by several former Goldman bankers before him.

The role gave Cohn an opportunity to divest his Goldman stake, including the acceleration of deferred compensation.
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The deferred pay became an issue earlier this year when Goldman attempted to claw some of it back for Cohn's role in managing the bank when did deals for 1MDB, the Malaysian development fund that later became one the largest frauds in financial history. Cohn declined to give the money back to Goldman, finally choosing late last year to donate some of it to charity.

Cohn left his post at the White House in 2018 after failing to convince Trump to forgo tariffs on steel and aluminum. Cohn and the outgoing president reportedly disagreed on numerous matters during his tenure, including Trump's response to a white nationalist demonstration at Charlottesville, Virginia.

Read more: The David Solomon era at Goldman Sachs kicked off with 43 words Lloyd Blankfein would never say
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